By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
FOXBORO, Mass. -- The Patriots have reached the "Ignore The Noise" portion of the 2019 season. But no team in the National Football League combats outside noise better than them.
How do they block that racket on the outside? By making even less noise than usual on the inside. The Pats have long been known for turning potential distractions and criticism into an extra gear for Sundays. But it's not like they magically become bigger or faster because they sprinkled some magic motivation-dust. They just prepare harder off the field and, thus, execute better on the field.
Team captain Devin McCourty takes a simple approach to weeks like this one with his teammates, especially the younger and newer ones who are getting their first tastes of "Ignore the Noise". He mostly doesn't talk it over with them, but leads by example. Less talking, more doing. It's an approach that previous Patriots champions passed down to him.
"I always try to make sure I'm not preaching to guys and just doing those things and practicing with the right attitude, energy, doing those things this time of the year, talking around the building about what we need, to do the right things in defensive meetings, the other guys in offensive meetings and special teams," said McCourty. "I think by doing that, you create an environment where that's the only thing that matters. I think once you do that, then young guys find out.
"When I was a young guy, that's what I did. I watched Kevin Faulk, I watched what he did. I watched Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork. Obviously they spoke to me, but if they would've just sat there and sat me down and kept talking and talking, I would've said 'Man, do these guys ever do anything around here?' So, I think the biggest thing is you've got to do those things and the young guys will follow."
When you win as much as the Patriots do and build a legacy as monumental as theirs, distractions and outside noise become a weekly occurrence. And at least once a year it reaches critical mass. We've arrived at it this week, with the Patriots coming off their second straight loss and facing another investigation from the league. With that comes an increase in decibels from motormouths across the country.
This is the kind of week where the Patriots unite amid the noise outside the Gillette Stadium walls. Where they would absorb all that negative energy, fashion it into a weapon, and bludgeon the poor, hapless Bengals with it. It would shock no one if Bill Belichick and the Patriots took Cincinnati to the woodshed on Sunday, and not because the Bengals are 1-12.
But it wouldn't necessarily happen because they're extra-angry, or they want to slam another dunk on Max Kellerman and Rob Parker. It's because they've sharpened their focus on football even more.
"In this world it's kind of natural for people to want to bring down something that's good," said safety Terrence Brooks. "Whenever people see something like [the Patriots], they don't want it to last for too long.
"We have a lot of guys and coaches that really focus on the task at hand, and that's the next game, the next assignment. ... For the most part, we let that stuff kind of fizzle out and do what it has to do and let people handle that. But for the most part, we're focused on our next game, and that's Cincy and going out there and trying to execute."
No one has separated the football operation from the clattering on the outside with more authority than Belichick. The Patriots are facing a fresh round of scrutiny after admitting that a freelance videographer hired by the organization illegally recorded the Bengals sideline last Sunday in Cleveland. Belichick repeatedly, emphatically said on Wednesday that the football staff had nothing to do with the actions of the video crew, who were in Cleveland filming a documentary for Patriots.com about one of their advance scouts.
For a team that's dropped two straight to the Texans and Chiefs - and has to make improvements of their own on the field, especially on offense - it's the noise-cancelling they need at a time like this.
“[Belichick] does a great job of filtering out the noise, a great job of keeping us focused. That’s something that I think permeates the entire team, from the leadership on down to the rookies coming in,” said tight end Ben Watson. “You understand that everything on the outside really has no bearing on what goes on in here. That’s how it has to be. We have to go to work every day, we have to improve every day. So, the stuff on the periphery, you gotta keep that in the background.”
The Patriots' leadership starts at the top with Belichick, but he benefits from a locker room filled with veterans who are used to blocking outside noise. And they transfer that sharpened focus to the rookies and new faces by simply doing their jobs even harder. It's inevitable that they're going to hear the noise, because they're the Patriots. The key is letting it pass and being mindful of the real important things. Football things.
The rest of the 2019 season is simply the latest in a long line of commotions to bang down the doors. What matters is the veterans and kids alike are letting it run its course while they work on what they can control, and that's winning the next game.
"If you let a distraction seep in, it gets to a point where you're just not focused on what you have to do," said Brooks. "You're going out into a game and you're worried about what the media says, or what the problem is that's outside of football that doesn't matter to that game.
"There's a lot of guys in here who stay focused on football and the task at hand, and we don't stray far from that."
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].